Almost Hits: Dire Straits - Lady Writer (1979)

"Sultans of Swing," the first single released by Dire Straits in 1978 climbed all the way to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was a unique song that helped me become the huge Dire Straits/Mark Knopfler fan that I am today.

The following year, the original quartet - composer, singer and lead axeman Knopfler; his brother and second guitarist, David Knopfler; bassist John Ilsley; and drummer Pick Withers - released their sophomore LP, Communiqué. It sounded so much like the group's eponymous debut that I believed they shouldn't have bothered. In other words, it was all filler, no killer.

"Lady Writer," the album's lead single, felt like it was an exact clone of "Sultans." Perhaps that is why it only peaked at #45 even though today radio plays it almost as often as its superior predecessor.

A now defunct English music magazine, Smash Hits, was brutal in its assessment of the song. "Look, the only way you'll want this is if you've got (a) more money than sense, and (b) a memory like a sieve."

Knopfler often wrote songs influenced by what he saw happening around him. "Money For Nothing" is based on a conversation he overheard between two delivery men in an appliance store. His penchant for observational songwriting also holds true for "Lady Writer." It gives the single an interesting perspective that elevates it above the sameness that hampers some of Dire Straits' early work. The soon-to-be arena rock star proved he can write lyrics as well as he plays guitar.

Knopfler was watching TV one day when he saw a renowned British author, Marina Warner, being interviewed. Because she was "talking about the Virgin Mary"  many people - including Warner herself - believe she is the author referred to in "Lady Writer." The song is about how much she reminds Knopfler of his ex-girlfriend.

As it turns out Communiqué was only a temporary letdown. The band followed it up with their two best albums, Making Movies and Love Over Gold before becoming major international stars with Brothers In Arms
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Almost Hits is an occasional exploration into songs that failed to reach the top 20 on the American Billboard Hot 100. Many have become classics despite what their chart position would indicate.

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